What is Mental Illness?
Common Mental Illnesses
- Sub-clinical depression or dysthymia
- Anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, OCD, PTSD
Severe mental illnesses
- Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders
- Paranoid and other psychotic disorders
- Bipolar disorder (hypomanic, manic, depressive and mixed)
- Major depressive disorder
- Suicidal behaviour
The Banyan works primarily with individuals who suffer from severe mental illness. Severe mental illnesses can be overcome, in some instances individuals will spend the rest of their life on medication and need personal care and support.
Other individuals go on to lead independent lives as part of families and communities - a testament to individual strength and resilience.
Stress and Vulnerability
Psychosocial stress is associated with negative life events such as loss of a loved one, getting fried from a job, experiencing trauma relationship conflicts etc. Alcohol and drug use can also interact negatively with a person’s biological vulnerability.
A combination of biological vulnerability and stressors can lead to mental illnesses such as psychosis, depression, bipolar disorder etc. as they are the body and brain’s way of coping with stressors.
Treatment models for mental illness usually focus on a combination of addressing both biological and social factors. Examples are:
- Taking medication
- Avoiding alcohol and drug use
- Developing effective coping skills for managing stress
- Participating in meaningful activities
- Building socially supportive relationships
Mental Illness in India
Mental illness contribute to 31% of the global disease burden
but only receive 1% or less funding from national health budgets worldwide.
In India, there is a 90% treatment gap for those living with mental illness.
10-12% of persons living with mental illness experience long term care needs and these individuals are languishing in mental hospitals, beggar homes and therefore experience poor quality of living, poor mental health outcomes, significant human rights violations
In India, most funding towards mental health is utilised for institutional care that focuses on addressing solely biological vulnerabilities rather than social stressors (e.g. poverty, employment status, abuse, homelessness)
The recent National Mental Health Policy called for a convergence between health and social care systems to address vulnerable and marginalised groups who suffer from mental illnesses.
The Banyan aims to address both the biological and social factors that contribute to the emergence of mental illness through our treatment and prevention programmes.
Research has shown a close link between poverty and mental illness: Common mental disorders are twice as frequent among poor communities
- Those experiencing debt and hunger, poverty, overcrowded housing are more likely to suffer from common mental disorders
- The highest prevalence of mental disorders are among those with lowest levels of education and the unemployed
- Those from the lowest socio-economic background have a risk 8 times higher than those of higher SES for schizophrenia
Evidence also shows that this relationship is cyclical:
In regard to homelessness, mental illness affects an individual’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life (self care, household management, employment) in addition to preventing individuals from maintaining stable relationships (caregivers, friends, family).
These factors combined with the stress of living with a mental illness, those suffering from mental illness are much more likely to fall into homelessness than the general population.
Approximately 70% of India’s population lives on less than USD 2 / a day
Mental Health & Daily Life
It is normal to experience highs and lows, and important to take your mental feelings as seriously as you do your physical.
There are many ways in which you can keep yourself healthy mentally, we have listed a few ways below:
- Be kind towards yourself and others
- Take time for rest
- Exercise at least a few times a week
- Participate in activities that you enjoy
- Surround yourself with a positive support network
- Practice gratitude
- Eat a balanced diet
- Educate yourself on mental health
If you, or someone you know is experiencing serious symptoms of mental illness including hallucinations, delusions, consistent depressive mood, suicidal thoughts etc. please get help.
Stigma & Discrimination
The ignorance, fear, misunderstanding and prejudice that surround mental illness deepen the severity of the illness as individuals withdraw further from the world around them.
All of our clients have at some point in their life experienced the negative consequences of stigma and discrimination.
What can you do reduce stigma and discrimination
Make the time to understand more about mental illness, speak to friends and family about what you’ve learned. This way you are actively contributing to reducing stigma and increasing awareness about mental illness
If you find out that someone close to you has a mental illness, do not run away from them, try to be empathetic towards their experiences and try not to treat them any differently than you would before. They need your support more than ever.
Those with mental illness have as much motivation and skill as anyone else, don’t choose to break a relationship or a job just because you find out someone has a mental illness.
General Mental Health Information
- World Health Organisation: Mental Health, The World Health Organisation offers a lot of information on mental health and its effects worldwide
- Understanding Mental Disorders, The American Psychiatric Association describes different psychiatric disorders based on their definitions in the latest Diagnostic Statical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
- Learning More About Mental Illness, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, USA has resources on warning signs, mental health conditions, statistics on mental health, treatment, research, infographics and policy
- Caring for Someone with a Mental Illness, This UK organisation shares ways in which you can support someone with a mental illness
Hospitals in & around Chennai
NGOs & Helplines in Chennai and Tamil Nadu
|The Banyan Emergency Care and Recovery Centre, Chennai||Services for homeless persons with mental health issues||+91-44-26530504; +91-44-26530599|
|The Banyan Health Centre, Kovalam||Services for homeless persons with mental health issues||+91-44-27472184|
|Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), Chennai||Services for individuals suffering from schizophrenia||+91-44-2615-1073|
|Sri Arunodayam, Chennai||Services for orphaned mentally challenged children||+91-44-26511450 +91-44-26511803|
|Anbagam, Vichur||Services for homeless mentally ill men||+91-44-29013306 +91-9444009988|
|M.S. Chellamuthu Trust & Research Foundation, Madurai||Promote mental health care through holistic mental health services||+91-45-22586448 +91-9629911348|
|SNEHA 24/7 Suicide Helpline, Chennai||Suicide helpline for those based in Tamil Nadu||+91-44-24640050; +91-44-24640060|